Help me find old burlesque and vaudeville performances on VHS or DVD!
May 9, 2009 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Help me find burlesque and vaudeville performances from the 1920s-1940s.

I'm on a mission to find some videotapes and/or DVDs that have performances of 1920s-1940s vaudeville and burlesque shows on them.

Please note the time period, as I'm not terribly interested in today's version of burlesque shows. I saw an throwback performance of burlesque in Denver in March and am looking for something along that line.

As always, thanks!
posted by elder18 to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If you interested in some immediate gratification I would recommend doing a search for "stag" or "dance" on the Prelinger Archives. They have a number of very fun old burlesque reels for free.

Something Weird Video is a great pay resource for tons of kitsch, grindhouse and old school ephemera as well. They have a huge strip/burlesque/peepshow section that seems to grow exponentially :) I have ordered some old educational dvds from them in the past and have been very satisfied.

Good luck on your quest!
posted by MeetCleaverTheatre at 4:03 PM on May 9, 2009

There is a lot of George Formby, Jr. on Youtube, as well as Gracie Fields. Both of them were huge British vaudeville stars in the period in which you're interested.

I've linked two of their movies, which are basically their acts strung together with a flimsy plot. Be warned - the accents in those movies are very difficult. Made for a specific regional audience, they're not particularly comprehensible on first listening. I did a paper on early British cinema and I had to play their things over and over to understand them.

There was also some stuff on for them, last I looked.
posted by winna at 4:36 PM on May 9, 2009

Virtual Vaudeville may not be exactly what you are looking for, but it's still kinda neat. (Shockwave)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:42 PM on May 9, 2009

I don't know about videos or DVDs, but there's a hell of a lot on YouTube:

Trapeze disrobing act from 1901 on YouTube, as filmed by Edison. Watch for the corset toss!

Little Tich, a little man with big shoes from about 1900

Ella Shields, famed male impersonator, sings "Adeline" (you want to watch till the end for the excellent dancing)

Wilson and Kepple and their famous Egyptian Sand Dance, 1943

Two 1920s acts: a female vocal trio and a leggy tap dancer on pointe

More leggy dancing circa 1935

Awesome can-can featuring a game of Kick The Hat, pre-1943
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:43 PM on May 9, 2009

A while back, I rented Striptease: The Greatest Exotic Dancers of All Time (which is available on Netflix, for rent and to stream). It has a lot of vintage footage of burlesque from the '30s-'40s-ish period, and I thought it was really cool.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:20 PM on May 9, 2009

The bibliography of No Applause - Just Throw Money might have some good resources for you. (It's also a great book about vaudeville and burlesque.)
posted by minervous at 6:57 AM on May 10, 2009

Look through the Ministry of Burlesque archives - they're mainly British-based but have EXCELLENT resources on old-school burlesque.
posted by divabat at 3:45 PM on May 10, 2009

PBS did a show on vaudeville with many videos on it perhaps ten years ago. Can't recall the name, but google must have some recollection
posted by IndigoJones at 4:26 PM on May 10, 2009

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